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WA’s peak parent group has slammed a plan to test pre-primary students next year as a waste of money, saying it’s “ridiculous” to assess children as young as four.

As part of its strategy to improve literacy and numeracy across WA, the Education Department will start to roll out the 30-minute assessments in the first term in public schools. The Sunday Times can reveal some of the sample questions likely to be used in the so-called “on entry assessments”, which are aimed at picking up early problems.

Pre-primary students in public schools will be asked to: Speak about a certain topic, such as friends or favourite games, for two to three minutes. Estimate how many teddy bears are in a cup. Put objects, from smallest to tallest, in order. Count backwards. Match dots with a number on a page.

WA Council of State School Organisations president Rob Fry attacked the $2 million plan, saying he expected parents to be angered by the “ineffective” results.

“I just find this truly remarkable when you’re dealing with children of such a young age,” he said.

“If you get an exceptionally shy child, you’re asking a four-year-old to talk on a subject for two minutes and some of them won’t want to say anything at that age. Does that mean they’ve got a literacy problem? No, they might be shy.

“It’s ineffective and you are going to get such diverse responses between a child coming from an indigenous community to a child living in a Perth suburb with a highly socially active family.”

School Support Programs executive director David Axworthy said the Education Department based its tests on the Victorian model because it was the “best tool to meet the needs of WA children”. It would also enable shared resources between the states.

“It will leave WA well placed for the introduction of the national curriculum when it is produced in 2011,” he said.

WA Primary Principals Association president Steve Breen supported the plan because it would allow teachers to set benchmarks and adapt their programs to suit children’s needs.

Education Minister Liz Constable said children at risk of falling behind would be identified earlier, allowing urgent action to be taken.

Under the plan, students in 50 schools will be tested in term one before all public schools will have access to the assessments in the final term. From 2011, each pre-primary student will be tested at the start of the year.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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The new Australian citizenship test which assesses prospective new citizens on their understanding of Australian civics and the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship commences Monday 19 October.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said the new test is based on the pledge of commitment that new Australians make when becoming citizens. Topics include Australia’s democratic beliefs, laws and government as well as the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship.

The 20 multiple-choice questions in the new test have been written in plain English and will be conducted in English only. All test questions have been drawn from the testable section of the revised citizenship test resource book, Australian Citizenship: Our Common Bond, which was launched in September.

The new test is not a general knowledge quiz about Australia,’ Senator Evans said. ‘We want people applying for citizenship to understand the values of Australian society, our democratic beliefs, our rights and our system of law and what it means to be an Australian citizen. ‘All prospective citizens should understand those concepts so all of the questions in the new citizenship test focus on the commitments that new citizens make in the pledge.’

The new test was developed after an independent review of the old citizenship test last year found that it could be improved by focusing on the pledge of commitment. People will now need to answer 75 per cent per cent or 15 of the 20 questions correctly to pass – up from 60 per cent under the old test.

However, the mandatory questions have been removed to make the test fairer. All questions are now equally important and a person can no longer answer 19 out of 20 questions correctly and still fail the test because they answered one of the three mandatory questions incorrectly. A citizenship course is also under development to help a small group of disadvantaged people, who for a range of reasons, such as limited literacy and schooling, are likely to struggle when preparing for and sitting a formal computer-based test.

This will ensure that we encourage people to become citizens without the test being a barrier,’ Senator Evans said. The citizenship test resource book, Australian Citizenship: Our Common Bond, and practice citizenship test are available online.

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